K-Beach students produce student newspaper

Posted: Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Zack Misner is not a kid who waits for opportunity to find him. He goes out looking for it.

When Zack, a fifth-grader at Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School, decided he wanted to work for a student-run newspaper, he didn't let the fact that there was no paper at his school stop him.

Instead, he took it upon himself to create the Caribou Gazette, a monthly newspaper produced almost entirely by students at the kindergarten through sixth-grade school.

Zack said he came up with the idea for a school newspaper with friend Will Christensen in September.

"Me and Will were walking to the computer lab, and I had been reading the Skyview (High School) student newspaper the night before, and we thought, Wouldn't that be cool?'" Zack recalled. "The next day, we just started doing it."

The boys asked a couple friends to help with the planning, and Zack came up with a plan of action to make the whole thing work. He made an appointment with the school principal, Sylvia Reynolds, and quickly obtained approval to gather a group of students to produce a regular newspaper.

He also had to find an adult to act as an adviser to the group, and that's where his mother, Nan Misner, came in.

"I'm ashamed to say that when he first mentioned the idea (of a school newspaper), I said, Yes dear, that's nice.' Then he came home with an outline, and I said, Yes dear, that's nice,'" she said. "Then he came home and said, Will and I talked to the principal. We have a newspaper, and you have to help.'"

A little surprised, Nan jumped right in. She and another parent edit the stories and lay out the pages, while the students do the brainstorming, interviewing, writing, picture taking and designing. Zack, as editor in chief, runs staff meetings.

"It's kid-centered, kids' thoughts from kids' points of view," Nan said.

Students also are assigned extra homework, such as reading journalism-related books, to help them learn more about the newspaper world.

And though the Caribou Gazette recently published its last issue of the school year, the students aren't done working yet. The paper and printing costs for the newspaper were covered through donations this year, but students plan to start selling ads next fall.

"It's hard to support a newspaper with donations," Nan said.

The kids will spend the rest of the year creating a PowerPoint presentation on their project and planning for next year.

The students say they like working for the newspaper because it puts them at the center of school activities and gives them a chance to write about what interests them.

"I don't really enjoy writing," admitted Kayla Schultz, a fourth-grade staffer on the paper. "When I'm forced to write, I don't like to write. But I don't mind this, because we get to pick the topics we want."

Schultz is not the only student to express such a view. Nan said many of the students who work for the paper aren't the straight-A students one might expect to volunteer their time for extra homework.

"We have kids who can't write, kids who write phonetically, kids who don't have basic skills," she said. "But they whack out stories."

The stories range in topic from school activities, like the recent "Fear Factor"-style assembly at the school, to recreation activities they enjoy.

For example, Zack recently wrote an article about skateboarding after getting the suggestion from a friend.

"Other kids give me loads of stuff," he said.

That means he has lots of story ideas and gets to meet more people in the school one of his favorite parts of working for the paper.

"I know almost every kid in the school now," he said.

Zack has one more year to enjoy that popularity, as well as his job as leader of the school paper. After that, he'll likely head to another school without a newspaper.

That's OK, he said.

"I'll start all over again."

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